A new chapter of Samurai NOT
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Samurai NOT 42
A few days had passed since Inori left to warn the villagers. Though he should still be resting, Yasuhiro met with a couple of villagers seeking their lord’s help and even attended a meeting. All this time, he didn’t talk to Tadayoshi, who kept training.
Then, at the night of the fifth day since he woke, the samurai call his disciple into the dojo.
“Tadayoshi.” Despite the low voice, the old man sounded abnormally serious. Even when meeting the nobles, he didn’t talk like that. On top of that, he was sitting on his legs and with the hands on the knees. By his side, there was a long rolled piece of parchment.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen the old man sitting in seiza. And he made me sit once for a whole day… I thought my legs would fall after that, he thought as he sat before the old man in the same manner.
Still… there’s something weird… I’ve never seen him like this…
“W-what is it, master?”
Yasuhiro stared at Tadayoshi in the eyes for a long time. “Could you please kill me?”
The words hang in the air for a long time. Tadayoshi showed no reaction as he processed.
“What?” he finally spoke after the initial shock passed. Is this one of his jokes? It’s not the best one… And to make a joke about his death after everything…
Despite the serious mood, the old samurai forced a tiny smile like the old times. “Didn’t you hear me? I’m the old one here,” he said, letting out a strained laugh. “I’m asking if you could kill me.”
Tadayoshi’s expression hardened. “Even for you, master, that’s a stupid joke…”
“It’s not a joke. I’m serious.”
Yasuhiro pulled his right arm inside his sleeve and showed his body.
Tadayoshi forgot to breathe as he stared at his master. When he showed up almost dead, it was only the arm that was a blackened husk. Now that covered half his torso. And he could feel something evil coming from it.
“It’s no joke, Tadayoshi,” he said it again. With the darkened arm, he touched his heart. “I’m dying. I don’t have much time. But I don’t wanna die was an old man fighting this curse. I wanna die in my way, like a samurai, like a swordsman.”
Tadayoshi remained quiet for a long while. “But—”
“I need your help, my disciple. I’m dead anyway,” Yasuhiro said before Tadayoshi said anything. “And that’s not all. I want you to inherit my style and keep it going. I want you to find a disciple and pass everything you learn with me and the others.”
He picked up a rolled parchment, pulled the thread tying it and opened it with a swift motion, placing it before Tadayoshi.
“I pass the title of master of the Ittou Isshin style to my disciple, Horou Tadayoshi,” Yasuhiro read. Below those words were his signature, as the first master of the style, and Masa, who served as witness.
“Master, I…” He had no idea what to say.
The old man he knew wasn’t someone who bothered with ceremonies or formalities. He never had. Not even when his son left. Even so, Yasuhiro had taken the trouble to write something so formal.
Tadayoshi grew quiet when he realized the meaning of that. He… master… the old man is really dying… He’s not joking…
Before he realized, tears fell as he looked at the man who had changed his life. “Master, I…”
“Don’t… There’s no need for that. Death is the destiny that lies ahead of us all. It’s one of the few things being famous or important doesn’t matter. Mine just happens to come sooner, that’s all. If so, I’d like to die like I lived, through the sword. And also…” Though sad, his smile was real as his eyes watered. “I want to see Hikari in the other world… I miss her too much…”
Ever since Hikari-sama died, the old man wasn’t the same, Tadayoshi thought crying more as he remembered the gentle and caring woman. If he’s dying, I know master would rather go in a fight… Even so, there’s no way I could ever beat him… I’m not strong enough… I’m not even close enough…
“Don’t put yourself down, Tadayoshi. You’re already strong enough,” the old samurai said, as if he could read his disciple’s mind.
It’s not the first time he does this, Tadayoshi thought. “This is no time to joke, master…”
“I’m not joking. Besides, I’m weak thanks to this curse. You have a really good chance today,” he said, smiling.
“How can you say that at a moment like this…?”
“Can’t help. It’s part of me.” He let out a weak chuckle. “I know I’m asking too much of you. I know it’s not fair. But I have to do this… I don’t have long until I can no longer lift my sword.”
Though he closed his right first, Tadayoshi saw it trembling. To not be able to lift your sword… He couldn’t imagine the pain that would be for a samurai like his master. Even for a simple swordsman like him
Even so, Tadayoshi thought desperately of something to stop the fight. There was no way he could kill the man who changed his life.
“You say you want to die as you lived, but we still need you. Inori… and Kenshin! Your son needs you. And… me too, master… There’s a lot you still have to teach me…”
For a moment the old samurai’s resolve seemed to break.
“Kenshin… He needs to grow up by himself. I might have been harsh on him, but I’ve done what I could. Now he needs to find his own path. And Inori… She’s already a mature woman who doesn’t need her father. She is more than capable of leading the family if that what she wants. And I won’t say anything about the man she chooses to spend the rest of her life with.” This time Yasuhiro flashed a strange and unfamiliar look at his disciple.
“So you knew…?” Tadayoshi lowered his eyes.
“I… She wanted to tell you, but I didn’t… Even if we know each other for years, she’s a noble woman, and I’m just…” He had no idea what he was.
“You’re the master of the Ittou Ishin style,” Yasuhiro said in a rare kind voice. “But that doesn’t matter. Because you cannot live under my shadow forever, Tadayoshi. You need to find your own path, to find your own future.”
“My own path… My own future…?”
Tadayoshi had no idea what his master meant. Before Yasuhiro picked him up, his future went as far as the next day. His life was finding food and a safe place for him to sleep. That was all. I never knew thought but the future. I don’t even know what that is…
“I knew would leave one day, just as I left my house. And I knew you’d never do the same. You found a life here. A life you never imagined when you were known as thedemon child. But it’s not good for you. If you continue like this, your blade will rust. I didn’t pick you up just because of a whim. I taught you how to use a sword but you need to find the moment when to use it.”
“Master… I…” Tadayoshi had no idea what to say.
“Please, Tadayoshi. Grant me this last request.” The old man placed both fists on the floor and bowed his head.
The disciple froze. He had never seen his master bow his head. He had seen the samurai ask for favors before, but never to the point of bowing his head.
Tadayoshi stopped crying and stood up. With a strange feeling as if he was watching the situation from afar, he walked away from the old samurai. When he was at certain distance, he turned around.
Though he didn’t plan, Tadayoshi realized he was standing in the same place as Iori when he challenged his father for the right to leave the house.
“Thank you, Tadayoshi. Thank you.”
Bowing once again, Yasuhiro got up. As he placed the hand on the handle, even with the curse that took over his body, the old man had an aura of strength.
He’s truly the strongest samurai in this country, Tadayoshi thought as a shiver ran down his spine. And he wants me to defeat him… I always knew my master was an idiot…
Breathing deep, he closed and opened his fist until the tremor stopped. Only then he drew his sword, holding before him with both hands on the handle. With another strange feeling, he thought of one thing. It was the first, and perhaps the last time, he would fight his master with a real blade.
As Tadayoshi concentrated, he did his best to find an opening at his master’s simple posture.
There was none.
How the hell am I supposed to defeat him?
He had no idea how to even begin. He didn’t have time to think anyway.
Yasuhiro charged with an amazing speed that didn’t fit an old man. In an instant, he was close enough, drawing his sword at his disciple.
Despite seeing the attack, Tadayoshi wasn’t fast enough. As the blade passed before him, he leapt back.
Yasuhiro didn’t stop. Using the same movement, he brought the sword back.
This time Tadayoshi blocked it. As the blade pressed against each other, he felt all the samurai’s strength, trembling as he was pushed back. Is this him weakened? What the hell!
Knowing he would lose, he whirled his entire body to redirect the blade. Tadayoshi succeeded. But it was a mistake.
The next instant, the samurai flashed a smile. Before he could do anything, Yasuhiro slammed his shoulder against Tadayoshi, pushing him back.
By the time the disciple had recovered, the master had his sword up again, bringing it down in a vertical strike.
Without time to think, Tadayoshi raised his sword diagonally. The blades met and Yasuhiro’s weapon slid on his, the sound of metal filling his ears.
When he was free from the pressure of the attack, he swung his sword on the other direction.
Yasuhiro was already expecting that. Even without looking, he moved his weapon and blocked Tadayoshi’s attack with ease, the sparks flying.
The disciple took the chance and leapt back, putting some distance between him and his master. As he raised the swords and his defense, staring at his master, waiting for the next move.
Even in that situation, the old man had a wild smile. A smile of someone who truly loved to fight. He’s a samurai… A real one…
No… he’s more than just that…
There wasn’t a single person who didn’t celebrate when Yasuhiro woke up. Even his weakened state, his presence was reassuring. As the word spread throughout the country, the scouts reported many armies were pulling away. As he got healthier, the mood in the mansion changed completely from the last couple weeks.
But as they exchanged blows, Tadayoshi realized it was only in appearance his master was getting healthier. Yasuhiro was growing weaker by the instant.
Even so, he was a samurai whose name was known to almost everyone in the country. As weak as he was at the moment, he was still much stronger than Tadayoshi.
Tadayoshi needed all his concentration, everything fiber of his being, just to defend.
As the fight went on, openings appeared here and there on the samurai’s defenses. Most, however, were traps to lure the disciple. And the few real ones were almost impossible for Tadayoshi to strike.
He’s the strongest man I know… He’s my master, Tadayoshi thought with a feeling of pride growing inside him.
With each attack, however, Yasuhiro became a bit slower. It was almost nothing, only a fraction of his speed. It wasn’t anything that could make the rare openings easier to attack. But it was proof his body was getting weaker during the fight.
What is this curse…? Why do I feel the old man isn’t just fighting me?
Tadayoshi had no idea if it was only his imagination, but he could swear the curse was spreading little by little. With each blow, it was getting closer and closer to Yasuhiro’s heart.
When the samurai stepped forward for another attack, Tadayoshi jumped to the side. His blade came after the disciple almost at once.
Tadayoshi could tell; there was a delay in his master’s reaction. And it was enough to create an opening.
Tadayoshi didn’t miss his first real chance and took advantage. As he attacked, however, his master moved the blade to block. Even weakened, Yasuhiro wasn’t someone who would be caught so easily.
Then the old man’s eyes grew dark. It was only for an instant. Yasuhiro winced and it was gone just as fast as it had come.
But that brief instant was enough for Tadayoshi’s sword to graze his master’s arm, ripping some of the bandages off. He was already considering how to attack when he stopped the moment he saw the uncovered arm. He lowered his sword and could only stare at it.
The arm wasn’t just darkened. There was a symbol around the elbow and words written, reaching all the way down to the fingers.
“Master… what is that”?
The samurai’s hand moved to pull the sleeve, but then he stopped.
“I didn’t want you to see it.” Despite his words, he raised it to show. “I say curse, but it’s a demon.
Yasuhiro let out a low and hollow chuckle. “Yeah… There’s a demon consuming my life. This can slow it down but it is not enough to save me. If I don’t die now, it’ll take over my body.” He closed his eyes and the fist. “And that I won’t allow it.”
Despite the absurdity of the situation, Tadayoshi knew the old man wasn’t lying. That’s why I had the feeling he wasn’t just fighting me… there’s a demon inside him… That was the dark that crossed his eyes for an instant…
When Yasuhiro looked at his disciple again, he flashed a smile and attacked.
Tadayoshi had no idea how he managed to keep fighting.
As the blades met, he realized something. As the fight went on, the demon was getting control of Yasuhiro’s soul.
“Can’t believe this old man is willing to die instead of giving me his body,” the demon said in a rough voice that had nothing to do with the old man. “Guess it’s expected. The man who took me down once is a great human who deserves my admiration. But in the end, I won. I have control of Horou Yasuhiro!”
“Like… hell… you have…” the true samurai spoke in his regular voice. “I… will die… as me!”
Panting, sweating and with his face in pain, the old man looked at his disciple and flashed a strained smile.
“See… boy…? I need to end this demon… It’s my last mission in his world. I need to kill him, but I can’t… That’s why… I need you to kill him, Tadayoshi,” he said in a pained voice.
“But master… Maybe Taichi—”
“I tried, Tadayoshi. I really tried…. There’s nothing else anyone can do. So please, help me! Please help me kill this demon!”
Under his master’s despair, the disciple closed his eyes. He placed both hands on the sword and when he looked into Yasuhiro’s eyes, Tadayoshi was determined to help him.
With a last smile, Yasuhiro charged. With each attack, he got weaker. But his never faded. Even when Tadayoshi managed to hit him a few times, scratched his belly and grazing his legs, he was still enjoying the fight.
Then it happened. Tadayoshi tried to pierce his belly. The samurai swung his sword and broke his disciple’s weapon.
But Tadayoshi didn’t pull back. With the broken blade, he still landed a fatal blow, piercing his belly.
Yasuhiro looked surprised. Then please as the blood spilled from the corner of his mouth.
Tadayoshi threw the rest of his sword aside and supported the samurai. “Master!”
“Don’t make… that face… you idiot… I asked for this. What kind… of disciple… are you… if you cry… after doing a favor… for his master?”
“Master…” Tadayoshi had no idea what to say.
“Listen… Tadayoshi… There are… two more things… I need from you… Help Kenshin. He needs you… And also… I want you… to find a disciple… Believe in your master… It will change your life… Hope… this helps…”
Those were the last words of the legendary samurai Horou Yasuhiro.
With the last bit of strength he had left, he handed Tadayoshi his sword. Even as he left this word, he was still smiling.
Thanks for reading.
Hope you enjoyed SN
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